Friday, May 17, 2019

Greetings for Healthcare Workers

At 11:30am this morning (5:30am EDT), in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the members of the Association of Catholic Healthcare Workers (ACOS) on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of their foundation.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
offered to members of the
Association of Catholic Healthcare Workers

Dear brothers and sisters!

I greet all of you, members of the Catholic Association of Health Care Workers, in particular your President, whom I thank for his words - he said he loves me, that you love me: this is good for me! And I also greet the ecclesiastical consultant. I am pleased to meet you and to share with you the intent to defend and promote life, beginning with those who are most defenceless or in need of assistance because they are sick, or elderly, or marginalized, or because they look toward existence and ask to be welcomed and looked after. To all of them, in different ways, you provide an irreplaceable service whenever, as health care workers, you offer them the care they need or the closeness that sustains them in their fragility.

The 40th anniversary of the foundation of ACOS urges us to thank the Lord for what you have received from the Association and for what it has allowed you to accomplish in this time for the improvement of the health system and the working conditions of all health care workers, as well as for the condition of the sick and their families, who are the first recipients of your commitment.

In recent decades, the system of assistance and care has changed radically, and with it the way of understanding medicine and the relationship with the patient have also changed. Technology has reached sensational and unexpected goals and has paved the way for new techniques of diagnosis and treatment, but creating ever more complex ethical problems. In fact, many believe that any possibility offered by technique is in itself morally feasible, but, in reality, any medical practice or intervention on the human being must first be carefully assessed as to whether or not it actually respects human life and dignity. The practice of conscientious objection - today it is questioned - in extreme cases where the integrity of human life is endangered, is therefore based on personal need not on acting differently based on one's ethical conviction, but it also represents a sign for the health care environment in which we find ourselves, as well as for the patients themselves and for their families.

The choice of objection, however, when necessary, must be made with respect, so that it can be done with humility, so as not to generate an equal contempt, which would prevent the understanding of the true motivations that drive us. Instead, it is good to always seek dialogue, especially with those who have different positions, listening to their point of view and trying to transmit yours, not as someone who goes up in rank, but as someone who seeks the true good of people. Be the traveling companions of those around us, especially the least capable, the most forgotten, the excluded: this is the best way to fully understand the different situations and the moral good that is involved.

This is also the way to give the best testimony to the Gospel, which casts on the person the powerful light that the Lord Jesus continues to project onto every human being. Christ's humanity is an inexhaustible treasure and the greatest school, from which we can continually learn. With his gestures and his words, he made us feel the touch and the voice of God and he taught us that every individual, above all those who are least among us, is not a number, but a person, unique and unrepeatable.

It is precisely the effort to treat the sick as people, and not as numbers, that must be carried out in our time and taking into account the form that the health system has gradually taken on. Its corporatization, which has placed the needs of cost reduction and service rationalization in the foreground, has fundamentally changed the approach to illness and the patient him- or herself, with a preference for efficiency that often placed second any plan for attention paid to the person, who needs to be understood, listened to and accompanied, as much as s/he needs a correct diagnosis and effective treatment.

Healing, among other things, occurs not only in the body but also in the spirit, in the ability to regain confidence and to react; therefore the patient cannot be treated as a machine, nor can the health system, public or private, be conceived as an assembly line. People are never the same, they must be understood and cared for one by one, as God does: this is what God does. This obviously requires a considerable commitment on the part of healthcare professionals, which is often not sufficiently understood and appreciated.

The care that you give to the sick, which is so demanding and engaging, requires that you also take care of yourselves. In fact, in an environment where the patient becomes a number, you too risk becoming a number and being burned out by work shifts that are too demanding, by the stress of emergencies or by emotional impact. It is therefore important that healthcare professionals have adequate safeguards in their work, that they receive proper recognition for the tasks they perform and that they can use the right tools to always be motivated and trained.

Formation is an objective that your Association has always pursued, and I invite you to carry it forward with determination, at a time when we often lose sight of the most basic values of respect and protection of everyone's life. The training you propose is not only a matter of comparison, study and updating, but also a matter of special care for spirituality, so that this fundamental dimension of the person is rediscovered and appreciated, for it is often neglected in our time but it is so important, especially for those who are experiencing illness or those who are close to those who suffer.

I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to always value the associative experience, facing with new enthusiasm the challenges that await you in the areas that we have considered together. Good synergy between regional offices will ensure that the strengths of individuals and various local groups do not remain isolated but are coordinated and multiplied.

To keep your spirit alive, I urge you to be faithful to prayer and to nourish yourselves with the Word of God: always with the Gospel in your pocket, always at hand: five minutes, we need to read, so that the Word of God enters into us, where it can inspire the example of constancy and the dedication of the saints: many among them served the sick, especially those who were most abandoned, with love and self-giving. Regarding the Gospel in my pocket, I read the story of a missionary - perhaps you know him, it's true - of a person I believe from the Amazon, an indigenous, who always carried the Gospel in his pocket. He was illiterate, he could not read, but he carried the Gospel in his pocket, all ruined by the many years during which he carried it. And once, a missionary asked him: Why do you carry the Gospel if you can't read? - It's true, I can't read, he said, but God knows how to talk!  What awareness: that in that Book there is the Word of God, a word that speaks to us, always. Always carry the Gospel in your pocket.

Dear friends, I accompany you with my prayer in this precious task of witnessing. I entrust you to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to which your Association is consecrated. He who, in a clear way, practiced welcoming and charity, always remains for us a refuge when we are tired and a model of service to our brothers and sisters. Please don't forget to pray for me, and keep on going. Thank you!
Original text in Italian

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